Archive for July, 2015

Just A Junkie

Posted: July 31, 2015 in Uncategorized

If you’ve ever met me, you’ve probably seen me in an Edcamp t-shirt, which is possible one of two ways. We were at an Edcamp or I just always wear one. Yes, I really do just wear them for fun.

EdcampOmaha is held in Omaha, Nebraska

EdcampOmaha is held in Omaha, Nebraska

The first Edcamp that I attended was #EdcampKC in November of 2010. I was working with Ginger Lewman at the time and she had heard about this new conference and took a few of us with her. The space was small and we all crowded in. I don’t think Kyle Pace was expecting so many to show up. It was a great day of learning. However, I was still young in teaching and I didn’t go in there with the best thoughts.

EdcampOKC is held in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

EdcampOKC is held in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

In 2011, I returned to #EdcampKC on my own. I had a blast! I met so many new people and I was starting to learn what Edcamp was all about. I also had then planned my next Edcamp trip for February of 2012 to #EdcampSTL in St. Louis, MO. That one had me hooked! I made so many connections and started to fully use Twitter.

EdcampOmaha is an Edcamp that I have attended twice. The first time I was able to meet with Brent Catlett and a few of the organizers the day before because I was on my spring break. It was a great way to get to know a few different people and just have fun. I went with them all to see The Hunger Games even though I hadn’t read the book.

EdcampKS has been held in Wichita and Andover, Kansas

EdcampKS has been held in Wichita and Andover, Kansas

After EdcampOmaha I knew that I had to bring the Edcamp unconference style to Kansas. I connected with Dan Krutka and Greg Gorman to create #EdcampKS. Watching the creation of an Edcamp and seeing the growth that it makes is amazing. I’m very excited for what is in store for EdcampKS in the future.

EdcampTulsa is held in Tulsa, Oklahoma

EdcampTulsa is held in Tulsa, Oklahoma

There are a few sessions that I have grown to love over the years. The first session normally at each Edcamp is Twitter101. Now many feel that it gets old always having this session, but there are many educators who still don’t know about the Twitter professional learning secrets. Each time I get to open up that world to new and excited teachers.

EdcampOKSDE and EdcampEOC are held in the  Greater Oklahoma City area

EdcampOKSDE and EdcampEOC are held in the Greater Oklahoma City area

Another exciting session is Rocks vs. Sucks. It gives teachers and administrators a chance to discuss the big topics in education. Listening to other’s views about topics helps you understand more about why teachers do what they do. Take the time to listen and not just be a talker.

I huge reason why I enjoy Edcamps so much is because they are not sit and gets. I do not have to sit and just listen to one person speak about something. Yes, there are times that people are sharing how they use a resource, but you can ask questions while they speak and not just sit in silence.

List of Edcamps I've attended

List of Edcamps I’ve attended

However, many of the sessions are either hands-on learning or round-table discussions. It’s a chance for teachers to connect and share ideas and not just listen to people selling a product.

If you haven’t been to an Edcamp before, please find one soon and attend. You will learn a lot and make great connections. If you’re in Oklahoma, you can look at to find the list of Edcamps coming up.

I challenge Laura Gilchrist, Christine Ruder and Toby Brown to share their Edcamp stories.


A Serious Epidemic

Posted: July 26, 2015 in Uncategorized

I live and teach in Oklahoma. Just two years ago I was teaching in Kansas. Over the past few weeks I have seen many people share on Twitter how there is a teacher shortage in these two states. There have been talks about what we can do to encourage  teachers to move to our state and teach.

So let’s take a look. Here in Oklahoma they are saying that the shortage is due to low pay.

In Oklahoma, with a bachelors degree and no special certifications, you start out at $31,600. Some districts pay higher, like Oklahoma City, where you’ll start out at $33,800. But head down to Austin, Texas and you’re going to—on day one—start at $43,286.  (FOX 25 in OKC)

One school district is attracting teachers by adjusting their school week.

A shortage of funding and teachers is forcing Oklahoma School Districts to get creative. One option: a four-day school week. Currently the State Department of Education has 35 school districts on record as currently using the 4-day schedule. (NEWS9 in OKC)

Go a little to the north and we see Kansas is allowing non-licensed people to be hired to teach.

Kansas just waived the teacher licensing requirements in six school districts making it much easier to get a job instructing impressionable young children on the facts of life. The Kansas State Board of Education voted six-to-four Tuesday to waive the state’s licensing regulations for schools in the Coalition of Innovative Districts including Blue Valley and Kansas City. (Inquisitr)

What I don’t think people understand though is that it’s not just Oklahoma and Kansas with a teacher shortage. Just take a look at the .

Let’s look at Arizona.

Arizona officials say there are at least 1,000 vacant teacher positions to fill, with just weeks left until the school year starts around the state. (The Arizona Republic)

How about in California where they are hiring teachers who are still in school?

Another strong sign of the emerging shortage has come in a recent statewide uptick in the hiring of teachers with provisional, short-term credentials – the majority of them “interns” from university and district programs. About 2,600 of those credentials were issued throughout California in the 2013-14 school year – an increase of 17.6 percent over the previous year, according to an April report by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. (Edsource)

Then today my friend, Eric Johnson, shared with me about the shortage in Indiana and some of the many reasons why it is happening.

At Ball State University, the number of students in elementary and kindergarten teacher-prep programs has fallen 45 percent in the past decade. Other schools report similar declines.

And the number of candidates receiving first-time teaching licenses in Indiana dwindled by almost 20 percent from the 2009/10 to the 2013/14 school year, the most recent numbers available.

Area superintendents and others responsible for hiring teachers attribute the decline to an improved economy that’s sending fewer career-changers to teacher training programs, but also to standardized testing that’s become higher and higher in stakes, and a culture of teacher blaming that’s developed in the state. (South Bend Tribune)

Many may try placing blame on our government here in the United States, but we’re not the only country having issues.

Nearly one in 100 full-time teaching posts in England were either vacant or filled temporarily in 2014, Department for Education figures show.

There were 1,030 vacancies last November, up a third on 2013, the highest number since 2010, when the DfE started compiling figures in November. (BBC News)

Throughout all of the articles that I shared, you can read about different reasons for the shortage. You also read about some of the solutions that states and districts are trying.

I don’t think there is one reason nor solution. There are so many reasons why this teacher shortage is happening.

What are your thoughts? Where do we go from here? Stop thinking about your own school, district, state, country and thinking that you are alone. It’s time to stand up and start making a difference!

Classroom Design: Part 2

Posted: July 25, 2015 in Uncategorized

I’m getting ready to start a new school year in a new school. I wrote in my last post about how I am ditching the teacher desk. I wanted to share a little more about how I envision my classroom this school year.


A panoramic of my classroom shows what I walked into. There are currently 30 student desks in the classroom. I am working with my principal and janitors to remove 12 of those desks and bring in 6 trapezoid tables (which can make 3 hexagons.

You will also see that I have one wall that is all cabinets with a counter top. When you see this, you will realize that I have no need for a teacher desk. Any supplies that I need can be placed along that wall.

Yes, there is a teacher chair, but that is in front of the computer which is sitting on a small desk. That is also more space where I can place a cup of pencils/pens for my use. If you notice, the computer is not next to the Smartboard, which will force me to be up and walking around all the time. I do use a whiteboards quite a bit as well, so I will be utilizing so much of the space with the students.

Screen Shot 2015-07-25 at 11.37.53 AMI have drawn up a small drawing of how would like my classroom set up. However, it’s not drawn to scale and I don’t have my tables yet, so I’m not sure how the tables and desks will fit together. I am also working on trying to get some standing desks/tables for my room as well.

I want to students to have an seating option. I know that not everyone likes a table because movements of others can shake them. I also know that some do not like desks because they are not large enough for them to us the top successfully. Why standing desks? Well, I for one enjoy standing and not just sitting all the time. Also, some students need to move around more often.

So as you can see, there is still a lot that I need to do to be prepared for the next school year. I know I will be ready, but let’s face it, I will change throughout the year. I get tired of seeing the same thing all the time. Arrangements change constantly. As I said, I get bored, but also I like to have the students move around and visit with other classmates as well. If I keep the same arrangement all the time then students get stagnant and sit in the same seats with the same people all the time (just like adults).

I encourage collaboration and I feel that my thoughts of classroom arrangement will help this to start that year.

What are your thoughts about my design? What would you do differently? Have you thought about how you’re designing your classroom this year?

Classroom Design

Posted: July 12, 2015 in Uncategorized

This past week I received my keys and got to see my new classroom. For those who didn’t know, I will be teaching 7th grade math at Stillwater Middle School. I’m excited to having a short 10 minute commute this year!

As I was walking into the building with my principal, we saw the head custodian. She shared that the teacher desk was not in my room and was down in the gym. Once it was emptied, then she would take it back to my room. I told her, “Don’t worry about it. I don’t need it.” She froze, looked at me with a confused look and said, “Are you sure?”

I’m excited to finally not have a teacher desk in my classroom. I’ve wanted to do this in the past, but I needed something to put the computer that is connected to the SmartBoard on. Now I have a separate, smaller desk that already holds the computer. I don’t need anything else to collect piles of paper.

The classroom currently has 32 student desks, but I have already begun working with my principal to have a mix of desks and tables. I feel it’s important for students to have a choice where they want to sit as well as giving me the choice of where to work with students. Some day, I hope to have a few standing desks as well for students to be able to stand and work.

I want students to feel comfortable and excited as they enter my classroom to learn. I want a place for students to know that they are welcome and to share their learning experiences with others.

How are you redesigning your classroom for this next school year? Are you ditching the desk as well?

Out of Context

Posted: July 8, 2015 in Uncategorized

We as teachers are always sharing and collaborating. We as teachers quote each other when we hear something great! We as teachers do the best that we can to get our points across in a great way.

Yesterday I attended EdcampOKSDE (The Oklahoma State Department of Education Edcamp) and I was able to connect with several teachers in Oklahoma to share ideas. We had great discussions and even challenged each other’s thinking to become better educators.

One of the sessions that I attended was called “Rocks vs. Sucks”. For those of you who have never attended an edcamp before, this session is a common at edcamps. The purpose of this session is not to complain, but to chose a side over a topic and then share why you chose that side. It also offers you a chance to listen to the other side and many times realize that you didn’t think about that side.

I stepped out of the session for a moment and was asked to talk to The Oklahoman about the event. Kevin Hime and I were sharing about the session and how it works. We then were quoted in today’s paper.

Tuesday, Kevin Hime and Anthony Purcell agreed to disagree about Oklahoma’s A-F report card and neither educator got his feelings hurt.

Hime, superintendent of Clinton Public Schools, and Purcell, a teacher in the Stillwater school district, were among those participating in EdCamp on the first day of EngageOK, a summer education conference in downtown Oklahoma City.

Both spent time in a room designated Sucks or Rocks and chose one side or the other depending on the subject. The controversial report cards were a popular topic of discussion.

“I would say it sucks because it’s not valid,” Hime said. “It’s invalid because, first of all, 50 percent of it is based upon growth and the tests that we use were never designed to measure growth. Therefore, that in itself makes it invalid.”

Purcell doesn’t see it that way.

“It gives parents an eye to see how their school is doing so they can choose what communities they want to live in or what area of town they want to live in,” he said.

The A-F rating in the state of Oklahoma is a hot topic. So we were sharing how the discussion works. Kevin shared first about his views, then I (and you hear me say this in the recording) stated that I would take the other side to help offer a discussion. That is what happens in Rocks vs. Sucks.

Do I see good things about A-F? Kind of.

Do I fully support A-F? No.

Does this article make it seem like I approve of A-F? I think so.

I don’t feel that this article fully helped understand how Rocks vs. Sucks really works. I hope that my voice here helps you understand that in this session many teachers will go against the flow to create discussions and not just be one-sided all the time.

A Year of #oklaed

Posted: July 7, 2015 in Uncategorized

This picture was taken after #edcampOKSDE today. We had 700-800 in attendance.

A little over a year ago, I moved to Oklahoma. I didn’t know many educators in the state and had a rough time finding a job.

I then found a job with Enid Public Schools.

I found a free conference put on by the State Department of Education called Vision2020. I attended a I got to know a few more #oklaed tweeps.

I attended many edcamps, one of which I sat across then candidate for State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister.

I’ve learned so much from this awesome group and I feel at home. #oklaed is now where I am to be and I love being a great part of this community of teachers.

I’m looking forward to beginning at Stillwater Middle School in a month and to continue to build my Personal Learning Community.